Chef Meg Bickford prepares the dessert.
Chef Meg Bickford prepares dessert during a Tricentennial culinary exchange dinner featuring chefs from San Antonio and New Orleans in December 2018. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The list of recent Distinction in the Arts (DIA) honorees reads like a roll call of San Antonio’s elite arts figures and supporters: Flaco Jiménez, Naomi Shihab Nye, Vernon “Spot” Barnett, Jesse Treviño, Tomas Ybarra-Frausto, Belinda Menchaca, Aaronetta Hamilton Pierce, H-E-B – and the list goes on.

If you or someone you know belongs among these distinguished honorees, the nomination period for consideration to receive a 2019 DIA award remains open through Feb. 1, with guidelines and forms available here. For the first time this year, local chefs may also apply.

“We want to find individuals who have made substantial contributions to the city of San Antonio in the arts,” said Freda Facey, DIA committee chair since 2016. Facey said the committee, a subcommittee of the San Antonio Arts Commission, looks for individuals and organizations that have a demonstrated and sustainable history of excellence in their chosen discipline.

“Their work should demonstrate originality and be thought-provoking. We look at the nominee’s influence on other artists, the breadth and depth of their work, innovation and superiority in style and technique,” evidenced through work samples, she said.

Facey oversees the process of selecting nominees, along with her fellow committee members, who are appointed by the San Antonio Arts Commission. Each is an arts advocate, worker, or expert in one of the award categories: visual arts, performing arts, literary arts, music, arts patronage, arts administration, and the newest category, culinary arts.

The new culinary category honors the city’s own distinction, recognized in late 2017 by UNESCO as a Creative City of Gastronomy, so far one of only two cities in the United States to receive the honor.

Work samples are an option for inclusion with nominations. Asked whether culinary arts nominations would include actual samples of prepared food, Facey laughed and said such arrangements have not been made yet, but she assured that an expert on the committee would be knowledgeable about local chefs and cuisine.

The nomination process involves a form with basic information on the nominee, a one-page list of accomplishments, awards, recognitions, and biographical information, and a one-page narrative justifying why the nominee deserves the award. Optional for inclusion are up to six examples of supporting documents, including video, audio, images, letters of recommendation, press clippings, and other materials.

Nominators may email completed forms to, mail them to City of San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture, Attn: Distinction in the Arts Awards, 203 S. St. Mary’s St., Suite 120, San Antonio, TX 78205, or drop them off at the same address.

The awards are given out during an annual gala at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, this year to be held Oct. 10.

“It will be a wonderful gala,” Facey said. “It becomes more elegant and more wonderful every time we have it, it’s growing and attracting more and more people to come out and enjoy the festivities,” with live performances and speeches from the honorees. The annual event is free and open to the public.

Facey said the committee is already reviewing applications, and she looks forward to the selection and gala.

“This is considered to be one of the highest types of recognition that the City of San Antonio can give, so we absolutely would like to have people that have achieved in their particular discipline,” she said. “We want to take the opportunity to reward them for their body of work, the sacrifices they’ve made, and the quality of life in San Antonio that certainly has been increased by their contribution.”

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Nicholas Frank

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...